Equipment safety is a broad and diverse topic, with individual requirements that pertain to specific product types, regions, and applications. In order to demonstrate compliance, many commercial equipment manufacturers will mark their products with certification logos that indicate that their products have been certified by a governing or standards-issuing entity as safe and ready for their intended use. These markings are important for inspectors, end-users, and the general public as a standardized way to display this information.
In the United States, a number of different organizations exist to protect workers and end consumers by ensuring that manufacturers and operators uphold the standards. Some examples are safety code developers such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and federal agencies including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Another organization that plays a significant role in equipment manufacturing is the Underwriters Laboratory (UL), which develops safety, quality, and sustainability standards.
For end-users and operators, such as workers who use equipment in the food service industry, understanding what these markings stand for is an essential component of workplace safety. These businesses should not only purchase compliant equipment but must also maintain compliant operations. In fact, data from a UL field evaluation study showed that 63% of the equipment pieces inspected had deficiencies, some of them posing serious hazards.
We’ve created this guide to help you navigate the meaning and proper use of UL markings. We’ll explore how UL testing may differ from the other major safety agencies, what the UL standards cover, and how the different labels and marks should be interpreted and reviewed. UL labels and marks have been created as an easy way to quickly identify compliant equipment and provide a reference for their upkeep and ongoing maintenance needs. Since a safety program should not be a static process, taking time to fully understand UL markings can help ensure that your products are properly labeled and that you can maintain compliance throughout the life of your equipment.
- The Basics of Commercial Equipment Certification Marks
- An Introduction to the Underwriters Laboratory
- The UL Catalog of Standards
- Types of UL Labels and Marks
- Further Reading on UL Labels and Marks
The Basics of Commercial Equipment Certification Marks
Equipment may carry a number of different markings to designate compliance with certain standards. There can also be variations among country, region, product type, and certifying organization, which can add some complexity. Generally speaking, the markings on a product can indicate which regions the product can be sold in or the energy and safety benchmarks it was tested against. In addition to UL, here are a few of the other most common commercial equipment certification markings.
- National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). The NSF is a major governing body in the food service industry. NSF certification indicates a product that has been certified to a high standard of quality and safety. Sanitation requirements can vary widely depending upon the specific region, but the NSF marking signifies that the manufacturer undergoes regular auditing and is compliant with local regulations.
- European Union (CE). The European Union has created several laws, called directives, that dictate the standards according to which products should be manufactured within the EU region. The CE marking indicates compliance with these directives.
- Canadian Standards Association (CSA). The CSA marking is specific to local Canadian standards, and there is often overlap with NSF and UL requirements. In some situations, a product marked only with a CSA label may be compliant with NSF or UL standards. It’s always a good practice to check with a local regulatory professional to confirm whether a product meets certain certification criteria.
- Edison Testing Laboratories (ETL). ETL is a global team of laboratories, a part of the Intertek organization, that performs testing services in accordance with various safety, gas, and electrical standards. This is an alternative to the UL, NSF, and CSA markings that are nationally recognized throughout North America.
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC is best known for regulating radio, TV, cable, and satellite communications through the U.S. Products marked with an FCC compliant label demonstrate that the product is able to operate using approved radio frequencies. Some household devices, such as microwave ovens, may have FCC certification.
An Introduction to the Underwriters Laboratory
The Underwriters Laboratory has been providing certifications for equipment since 1988 and has increased its scope and influence significantly over the past 30 years. Today, over 22 billion products are marked with UL labels each year. They maintain a catalog of over 100 different standards and provide testing, inspection, and certification services to manufacturers and businesses throughout the U.S.
The UL plays a major role in industries of all kinds and is especially active in the food and beverage industry. These are a few of the many solutions they provide to businesses operating in food services:
- Second-party auditing
- Online allergen training
- Brand auditing
- Shelf life and stability testing
- Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) training and support
- Vendor and supplier auditing and qualification
- Retail level food safety audits and inspections
- Pest sanitation inspection
UL is a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) which means that it is capable of upholding the highest standards expected by OSHA. Other organizations we have discussed, such as ETL, are also considered to be an NRTL, and their markings are often used interchangeably with UL by manufacturers. A company may choose one particular NRTL marking for their equipment due to the testing schedule available, certification costs, or because one certification mark is more widely recognized by consumers in a particular market.
The UL Catalog of Standards
UL maintains support for over 100 different standards that can be used to certify products or operations. Customers can also purchase standards from UL and access their extensive catalog for reference. These are a few of the most popular UL standards, which will give you a good idea of the wide range of products that may be certified and bear a UL logo.
- UL 508A – Standard for Industrial Control Panels (Find out everything you need to know before buying industrial control panels)
- UL 9560 – ANSI/CAN/UL Standard for Energy Storage Systems and Equipment
- UL 969 – Standard for Marking and Labeling
- UL 142 – Standard for Steel Above Ground Tanks for Flammable and Combustible Liquids
- UL 1703 – Standard for Flat-Plate Photovoltaic Modules and Panels
As is the case with UL 9560, some standards are also in direct alignment with U.S. standards maintained by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Given the frequent overlap, there is a process of continuous review and updating to ensure that all of the standards include the most recent requirements.
Types of UL Labels and Marks
The exact labels and markings will differ according to the particular region that products are manufactured. You can find details for the Asia Pacific, Europe, and Latin America regions on their website. In the list below, we’ll explain the major UL marks used for products manufactured in North America.
UL categorizes products as Type L or Type R, and there’s a handy Product iQ database on their website for confirming which one is applicable. Type L products use a UL Mark with an issue, lot, or serial number, while Type R products contain a marking with a control number or fixed 4-character number associated with a UL file number.
- UL Listing Service. A product that carries this mark has demonstrated UL-compliance based on a representative number of samples. Common products using this mark include smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and computer equipment. The standard logo for this mark is the letters UL closed in a circle with the word “Listed” below the circle.
- UL Combined Mark. If a product is in compliance with UL listing and follow-up services for the United States, Canada, and Europe, it may bear a combined mark. This logo appears as the letters UL surrounded by a circle and the letters C, EU, and US on opposite sides of the circle.
- UL Classification Service. This type of mark is specific to a certain sampling of products that have been designated as compliant based on either a particular use under special conditions, a limited range of hazards, or with respect to specific properties. This logo has the letters UL surrounded by a circle with the word “classified” above the circle.
- UL Recognized Component. This is an “R” style of label that is placed on compliant components used to manufacture products. For this reason, many consumers and equipment owners do not see them. The logo has a backward-facing letter R combined with a U, and there are three variations of this marking: US only, Canada only, and Canada and the US combined.
- UL Functional Safety Certification Service. This marking is placed on equipment that has been designated as safe based on a particular use or application. It is usually tied to a particular functional safety standard that takes environmental factors and other concerns into account. This label comes with the same options as the UL Listed marking but includes the words “functional safety” above the circle.
- UL Functional Safety Recognized Component. Very similar to the previous marking, this label is used for components that have been certified for use in particular applications. The variations of the logo are the same as a standard recognized component marking with the additional words “functional safety” above the circle.
- UL Enhanced and Smart Marks. UL now offers companies the ability to design a customer smart mark for their product that includes increased traceability. These markings can include an integrated QR code for quick access to product certification information. Smart Marks are available for all the variations listed above, with some additional options available to combine multiple designations into a single label.
In addition to these common markings, there are many additional options available for North America. A few examples are environmental and public health, water quality, and marine certifications. As you can see, the individual mark that is placed on each product will likely be unique based on various factors.
UL Authorized Suppliers Program
In order to design, print, and fabricate labels which include a UL Mark, a manufacturer must be part of the UL authorized supplier program. This program ensures that there is an adequate amount of oversight to the labeling process. In addition, it gives manufacturers and end-users confidence that the labels are accurate and true representations of compliance with the relevant standards.
In order to become a UL approved supplier, a company must demonstrate adherence to standards related to the major steps in label manufacturing. The detailed categories for these label and mark requirements are contained within UL 969, and we’ve summarized them below:
- PGDQ2 – Marking and Labeling Systems. This certification is the most comprehensive and high-level manufacturing standard. It applies to all aspects of label manufacturing including the adhesive, base material, printing system, and laminating or coating processes.
- PGJI2 – Printing Materials. For blank labels that are printed using thermal imaging, this certification requires routine inspection of the printing ribbons and label materials. The goal of this standard is to make sure that the entire printing process is safe and that all materials will be compatible with the environmental conditions.
- PGIM2 – In-Mold. Some labels can be mounted to a plastic substrate after printing. This molding process has unique concerns that are reviewed as part of this certification. There are also additional warnings that should be placed on these labels, including information about their environmental use and impact.
- PGGU2 – Materials. This certification pertains to materials used for manufacturing labels that do not require any additional testing. Often, these are labels that provide some information but are not used for safety or regulatory purposes.
- PGIS2 – Limited Use. Electrical equipment such as enclosures may not have regulatory requirements that are as strict as those covered in the overall UL 969 standard. This certification allows those labeling products, like cord tags or placards, to be created by the manufacturer for these limited-use situations.
UL labels and marks are vital for equipment in a range of industries to signify that a piece of equipment complies with essential safety standards. While there are other certification options for many industries, UL certification is one of the most widely used. Importantly, products that carry UL marks are subject to UL’s ongoing Follow-Up Services, which confirm that the manufacturing process continues to meet applicable safety standards and requirements for those products.
When choosing certification labels, work with an authorized UL label supplier like MPC for durable metal labels. Metalphoto® photosensitive anodized aluminum labels, for instance, are a UL-approved material that offers the durability needed to withstand typical equipment operating conditions across many industries. Metalphoto provides superior resistance to chemicals, abrasion, solvents, extreme temperatures, and UV, with an expected exterior lifespan of more than 20 years. Metalphoto labels can be customized to the precise size, shape, thickness, and information you need, with a silver-colored face stock that’s high-contrast and easy to read, making them an ideal choice for UL labels. Thanks to their exceptional durability and suitability for harsh environmental conditions, Metalphoto® photosensitive anodized aluminum labels remain readable throughout the lifespan of your equipment.
Further Reading on UL Labels and Marks
To learn more about UL labels and marks, visit the following resources:
- Your Guide to Understanding UL (Mactac)
- ETL vs. NSF Certification: What’s the Difference? (MPC)
- Guide for Printing Legacy, Smart and Enhanced UL Certification Marks (UL)
- Understanding the Different Types of UL Marks (Clarion)
- UL versus UR Rating (PCSC Security)
- Downloadable UL Mark Artwork (UL)
- Q&A: Everything to do with UL Marks (CILS)
- The UL Safety Mark Brochure (UL)
- Marking and Labeling (In-Compliance Magazine)
- Labels and Label Materials (UL)